Killing It

Josh Worden Senior Beat Reporter

OSU volleyball hitter Lanesha Reagan uses her athleticism to overcome height disadvantage

Lanesha Reagan is barely 5-foot-8 and she can grab a basketball rim.

It goes without saying she’s an athletic, fast-twitch type of person.

Fast-twitch muscles, fast-twitch decision making. It’s how she plays Pac-12 volleyball at Oregon State despite being undersized for an outside hitter. And, it’s how she came to OSU in the first place.

On Nov. 22, 2011, Reagan was visiting Corvallis from her hometown of Snohomish, Wash., and watched the Civil War volleyball game in Gill Coliseum. OSU swept Oregon in straight sets, and Reagan’s fast-twitch personality kicked in. She was only a sophomore in high school but she decided right then, without even telling her parents, to commit to OSU. The volleyball office was locked, so Reagan had to pound on the door to get now-head coach Mark Barnard to notice her.

“She came to the Oregon match and busted through the door,” Barnard said, who was an assistant at the time. “I said, ‘what do you want?’ She said, ‘I’m committing.’ I go, ‘No, no, no. Have you told your parents? She said, ‘No.’ It was a surprise. We had beaten Oregon, so she was on a commit high, I suppose. We were very happy because we had been recruiting for awhile.”

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I totally want to be here. It’s going to be the coolest experience ever,’” Reagan added. “I just went for it.”

Barnard first noticed Reagan as a freshman in high school and started recruiting her a year later. It didn’t take long for Reagan to commit, but that’s

just her style.

That style is the same on the court, where the redshirt sophomore is second on the team in both kills (235) and digs (168). She is listed at 5-foot-10 but admits she’s actually “5-foot-8 and a half-ish,” which makes her the third shortest outside hitter in the Pac-12. Of the 67 outside hitters in the conference, 54 are at least six feet tall.

“She’s a dwarf,” Barnard said with a laugh. “She’s so physically outmatched in this league, it’s not funny. But she competes very well. Most other outside hitters are six feet and above, but she’s done well.”

“It’s unbelievable,” added fellow outside hitter and teammate Mary-Kate Marshall. “Teams can’t stop her, and we can’t stop her in practice most of the time… When you look at her hitting against a 6-foot-8 blocker that’s a whole foot taller than her, that’s pretty insane.”

Multiple times, Barnard says, opposing teams have accidentally left their scouting reports in Gill Coliseum after playing the Beavers. Their game plans are exactly what Barnard expected.

“It was zero surprise,” Barnard said. “They were targeting Mary-Kate and targeting Lanesha and they really weren’t worrying about anyone else.”

Worrying about Marshall is no surprise; she’s a 6-foot-1 force who earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2014. But for Reagan, earning that amount of attention from opponents despite being 5-foot-8 is a credit

to her athleticism.

According to Marshall, Reagan is “easily” the best jumper on the team.

From the top of her hand to the floor, Reagan can touch 10-foot-2 on a jump. Marshall’s best jump is an inch shy of Reagan’s and that accounts for Marshall being four inches taller.

As Barnard puts it, Reagan can go “from zero to 100 immediately.”

“Ever since I saw her even as a younger athlete, she just had that ability to jump,” Barnard said. “You can’t train it. You can enhance your jump over time with strength and conditioning, but you can’t do what she does. You can’t go from my jump to her jump. Not even close.”

Reagan’s leaping prowess played a part in how she and Barnard first met. Reagan was playing in a club volleyball tournament at OSU seven years ago with Barnard in attendance. The 14-year-old Reagan happened to get a bloody nose during a match and Barnard’s first ever words to her on the sideline were both joking and complementary.

“He came up to me while I was adjusting my nose and he said, ‘Oh, you jumped so high, that’s what happened. The elevation made your nose bleed,’” Reagan said. “I just laughed. I didn’t really understand what he said because of the [Australian] accent. But he was funny, and he’s still pretty funny.”

According to MaxPreps statistics, Reagan was the top-ranked player of her class from Washington and the No. 6 prospect in the nation. She was named Snohomish High School’s volleyball MVP three years in a row and arrived at OSU in 2014.

She’s made the most of her time in the program, earning a starting spot this season as a redshirt sophomore. Not only has she overcome her diminutive height, she’s grown enough as a player to take advantage of it.

“It’s very hard to block shorter players because they jump so well, so timing becomes an issue,” Barnard said. “They just seem to climb as they jump. So there is an advantage to being smaller, but the thing is if you’re smaller, you’ve

got to be better.”

“A lot of it is timing,” Reagan added. “Stanford, who has girls who are like 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-8, there’s not a ton you can do when you’re 5-foot-8. The jump gives me the off speed between my timing and their timing. Usually I’ll try to go a little faster than them since I am kind of fast, so I’ll try to hit before they get their hands up.”

Marshall has noticed Reagan’s development over the past three years. After all, they came to OSU at the same time, live together and are self-described “best friends.”

“She can go above and beyond any hitter that’s been in this program.” Marshall said. “She has a really good work ethic. Having her on the court this year has really helped our offense. She worked really hard in the offseason. In the summer she had that mentality of ‘I’m going to be the number one hitter, I’m going to come in this season and work really hard.’ All of her hard work is paying off and it’s really helped

our team out a lot.”

Reagan has already begun making an impact on the team, but the fact that she’s only a sophomore increases her potential even further. Her goals aren’t centered around personal accolades, though; she wants to re-experience the NCAA Tournament like when she was redshirting in 2014. OSU’s comeback victory to snap Arkansas Little-Rock’s 25-game winning streak and advance to the Sweet 16 got Reagan hooked on postseason volleyball, even though she watched from the sidelines.

“My biggest hope is with the team to go and experience the Sweet 16 again because that was so fun the first time,” Reagan said. “I want to be able to play in it and not have to sit and watch. That game against UALR was crazy. I wish I was playing in that game. That’s my favorite memory.”